Thursday, July 26, 2012
Dulce Et Decorum Est
Dulce Et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Wilfred Owen is my favorite war poet. Those of you who know me well, know that I'm fascinated with the Great War and the deplorable conditions the soldiers of that war were forced to endure. Wilfred Owen was born in Oswestry in 1893 to a middle class British family. He enlisted in the Artist's Rifles in October of 1915. In May 1917 he was diagnosed with shell-shock and sent to Craiglockhart Hospital for treatment. It was there that he met the well-known poet, Siegfried Sassoon and soon after published his first poems in the hospital journal, The Hydra. Owen was killed on 4 November, just days before the Armistice was signed and the war ended. This poem gives me chillls every time I read it. The last two lines are Latin for, "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country."